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Free at Noon Flashback: The Lone Bellow exudes togetherness in an exuberant World Cafe Live set

The Lone Bellow | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Fall — at least for me — is time for sad folk music. As leaves are painted warmer, and breezes are swept colder, that somber sweet-spot of brittle-strummed melancholy whispers endlessly from my earbuds. And as these songs are often paired with hopeless, dismal lyrics, this seasonal soundtrack tends to be more than a little depressing.

Enter: The Lone Bellow’s exuberantly optimistic vein of folk, which will have none of this dispirited business. Though in no way strangers to feelings of pain and devastation, members Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Donehy Pipkin have an infectious ability to channel their wounds into earnest hopefulness.

The result is a sound that lets you wallow — but only if we’re all wallowing together in unison. A sound that says yes, life is very often the absolute worst, and don’t worry, we are going to croak out the intense heartache of it all. But we are also going to yell and shout and stomp and clap up a storm of unbridled joy.

All of which these moods were summed up immediately at today’s sold out Free at Noon, as the trio opened their acoustic set by belting the bluesy prayer, “Is It Ever Gonna Be Easy,” off their newest album, Walk Into a Storm. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: First Aid Kit debuts powerful new material at World Cafe Live

First Aid Kit | photos by Liz Waldie for WXPN

It’s been far too long since the sweet sounds of Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit were heard live in Philadelphia. The band — led by sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg — celebrated the release of their last album Stay Gold with a Union Transfer show in 2014, and shortly after their dazzling 2015 XPN Fest appearance, announced they’d be taking a break before working on new material.

That break ended a few weeks ago, when First Aid Kit let their new single “It’s a Shame” out into the world. With a forthcoming LP yet to be announced, the sisters have been making a few stops around the US to share some of their new material, and lucky for us they found time to stop by World Cafe Live this afternoon for a sold out Free at Noon concert.

First Aid Kit’s eight-song set was a carefully curated mix of old favorites and previews of what the new album will bring. The timeless, Americana-inspired anthem “It’s a Shame” has been floating around the XPN airwaves quite a bit recently, so the packed World Cafe crowd was right at home when the band opened with the new song. The Söderberg sisters then took us back to the warm and inviting sounds of Stay Gold with that album’s soft and shimmering title track, leading the audience in clapping along, before launching into the not-yet-released “Postcard,” a delicate ballad with a classic country sound that showcases the duo’s signature sibling harmonies. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Tommy Castro & The Painkillers take the World Cafe Live back to their Stompin’ Ground

Tommy Castro | Photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Tommy Castro & The Painkillers‘ tour behind their new album Stompin’ Ground has been a self-described series of record release parties. And though the four-piece blues-meets-rock-‘n-roll band didn’t have an official tour date in Philly this round (they made a suburban stop at the Sellersville Theater last night), they sure brought the all the party spirit to the midday crowd at World Cafe Live this afternoon.

Playing for over an hour and drawing mostly from Stompin’ Ground — plus a few oldies and some covers — Tommy Castro & The Painkillers won the hearts of those in the audience and almost — just almost — made us want to take them up on their offer to hop in the tour bus and join them on the road as they head to Virginia to play Wolf Trap tonight. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Lo Moon continues their slow burn at World Cafe Live

Lo Moon | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

Ah, Lo Moon. The mysterious, mysterious band who came out of seemingly nowhere with their hit song, “Loveless,” last year. I was introduced to the group — comprised of Matt Lowell, Crisanta Baker, Sam Stewart, and touring drummer Sterling Laws — when prepping to see them at NonCOMM last May.  And though I clasped my super-sleuthing cap on tight in detective-like determination, I could find nothing, save the lone 7 minute-long, slow-burning and soaring atmospheric rock track.

This Friday, WXPN welcomed back the LA-based band as one of the three inaugural Slingshot artists for a moody and ambient Free at Noon. Still as enigmatic as ever, Lo Moon has just released one new track, “This Is It,” along with a live performance of their 80s pop hook track, “Real Love” with KCRW.  In an information-overload world of instant gratification, their patient material-reveal timeline whispers a sort of magical, otherworldly feel to their music. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band guide with guitars on their psychedelic sonic journey

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band | photo by Liz Waldie for WXPN

I wonder how many guitar strings Chris Forsyth goes through in a year — or a month, or even a day. Because in just the forty-five minute span of today’s Free at Noon performance — or should I say, jam-fest — we lost more than a couple of brave string souls in the name of sweet, sweet music.

After the always-lovely Helen Leicht welcomed the Philly guitarist and his crew, The Solar Motel Band, on stage, hers would be the last voice the crowd would hear for the coming ten minutes. Instead, guitar gladly took its place.

Because, really, there’s no need for words when you can shred instead. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Deadfellow plays the lead in a postmodern rock drama

Deadfellow | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

Deadfellow’s Hayden Sammak is quite a character. Burgundy velvet-jacketed and long-bearded, the Philly local looked every bit the old-fashioned classic rock n roller this Free at Noon as he drawled sweet verses of love and California livin’ while retro, psychadelic sounds bounced about.

But something just didn’t fit with this picture-perfect 60’s throwback. And if you’ve ever read an interview with the Deadfellow frontman, this disconnect makes perfect sense. Because despite the shiny exterior of Deadfellow’s latest album, Mescalifornia: A California Dream, the intent seems to be more sarcastic and critical in nature; where Hammak harps on a present-day shallow culture towards love. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Gordi bridges heady synth-rock and anthemic pop at World Cafe Live

Gordi | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

After playing a Thursday night gig at Johnny Brenda’s and before heading down I-95 to play D.C.’s Songbyrd Music House, singer-songwriter Sophie Payten — known onstage as Gordi — stoped by World Cafe Live for a Free at Noon concert performance.

Sonically, the Sydney, Australia singer and songwriter manages to exist in numerous stylistic zones simultaneously. After opening on the majestic “Myriad,” a simmering spacey synth-driven track, the mood shifted with “All The Light,” a poppy, Paula Cole-ish number peppered with samples. After that taste of her forthcoming Reservoir LP, out August 25th, Gordi dove back to her Clever Disguise EP for “Wanting,” her acoustic guitar strums providing an organic counterpoint to the drumpad rhythm. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Jidenna commands the crowd in dapper, energized fashion

Jidenna at WXPN’s Free At Noon Concert on 7/7/17 | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

Earlier this week, when I first perused who was going to be performing at the upcoming Free at Noon, I was severely (and happily) surprised. To be honest, I was so surprised that I double checked to make sure the interweb was correct. A rapper? For Free at Noon? You sure, Google? Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: Manchester Orchestra captivates in soaring, momentous volumes

Manchester Orchestra | photo by Emma Silverstone for WXPN

If there’s one thing that Manchester Orchestra showed the packed Free at Noon crowd today, it’s that they have an insane superpower to effortlessly travel through moments of stripped, aching softness to hard-hitting, soaring volumes of power.

Being that it’s been ten years since their debut album, I’m Like I’m a Virgin Losing a Child, Manchester Orchestra’s sound has understandably morphed and grown along with them over time. Playing a few new tracks from their upcoming album, A Black Mile To The Surface, the Atlanta five-piece demonstrated a shift from heavy guitar jam builds to a more atmospheric kind of grandness. Continue reading →

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Free at Noon Flashback: A rollercoaster ride with Imelda May

Imelda May – Free At Noon 6/23/17 | Photo by Rich McKie / WXPN

If it’s good enough for Bob Dylan, it’s sure as heck good enough for us. In an interview on his own website, the legendary singer/songwriter listed Imelda May‘s new record in the same breath as Iggy Pop, Valerie June and The Stereophonics – and boy do we understand why.

The Dublin-born singer took us on a musical and emotional roller coaster ride at today’s WXPN Free At Noon Concert at World Cafe Live. Though her complete 7 piece band preceded her stage entrance, May started off her set with “Call Me” – a peaceful song, with only a lightly strummed guitar complimenting her quiet voice. Sitting on a stool under a single spotlight, you could hear a pin drop in the room — perhaps leading many to expect a laid-back show on this rainy Friday afternoon — but Imelda soon showed she had much more up her sleeve. Continue reading →